My Own Little Blue Boat
BEARby Beth Cortez-Neavel ecortez [dot] neavel [at] gmail [dot] com @ecortez_neavel
Though below me, I feel no motion Standing on these mountains and plains Far away from the rolling ocean Still my dry land heart can say:
Bear Amezcua-Waters is 32 years old. He lives in Austin, Texas with Gil, his husband. They both recently began attending the First UU Church of Austin. Bear shared his story with me and @KristenPsaki, on the first evening of General Assembly. For all three of us it was our first GA conference, and we were all happy to connect to friendly faces through Bear’s gracious telling.
Bear grew up to a body-building mother, now passed, who taught him in the ways of the Jewish Kabbalah religion. His father, who died when Bear was young, was a Southern Baptist-type short man from Spain. Bear said he’s the type who runs away from his problems. His battle with depression and losing faith in the God his mother and father fought about took him from Ft. Worth, Texas to New York. He told Kristen and me that he started abusing cocaine. He was living out of his car. He wasn’t comfortable in his own skin, in his faith, in anything he thought he had known before.
I’ve been sailing all my life now Never harbor or port have I known The wide universe is the ocean I travel And the earth is my blue boat home.
One day a woman brushed against him in the street. She took him in, helped pay for his thrice-weekly therapy sessions that she urged him to go to, and helped nurture him bit-by-bit back to health. After just a month of this beginning of a healing process, Bear said she left. He doesn’t have many details about her life to share with us, but he remembers she said at one point that she was a Unitarian Universalist, and that stuck with him. He’d never really heard of that before.
Sun, my sail, and moon, my rudder As I ply the starry sea Leaning over the edge in wonder Casting questions into the deep.
Last November, Bear finally made it to a UU church. His years after New York included moving to Austin, Texas, starting seminary school, meeting Gil, joining another faith, realizing that faith was not for him, and looking for another path to spirituality. That fall, his mother had died after a 25-year-long fight with cancer. Bear said he was feeling so lost, so alone. He had been questioning his faith again.
Drifting here with my ship’s companions All we kindred pilgrim souls Making our way by the lights of the heavens In our beautiful blue boat home.
“The one thing I’ve always had in my life is music,” Bear said, adding he and his three older siblings were like the Von Trapp family from the Sound of Music whenever they went on road trips from Austin to Ft. Worth as a young kid.
“When we traveled we sang in harmony,” he said. “That’s how we tolerated each other for hours on end.”
I give thanks to the waves upholding me Hail the great winds urging me on.
That feeling of harmonizing begetting harmony stuck with him as well. “Music has always fed my soul, above everything else,” Bear said. “I don’t hold a lot of traditions. I don’t like holding on to things. I never have…. I let go and run away. I don’t let things feed on me. I let it go. And the one thing that’s always kind of been there for me is music. Music fills my cup, so to say.”
Greet the infinite sea before me Sing the sky my sailor’s song:
Bear and Gil had been attending the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin for three to four weeks. It was the beginning of December 2014 and they were sitting in the sanctuary during a service. The choir and congregants had risen to sing. They sang two hymns: “Comfort Me” and “Blue Boat Home.”
“By then I had already come to the realization that I was more humanist than deist,” Bear said. “I heard those words for the first time. I’ve heard the Hyfrydol, that tune. Everybody knows it. It’s just so staunchly used in churches.”
I was born upon the fathoms
It sparked something in him.
Never harbor or port have I known
“I’d never though of a hymn as something sacred but still completely not divine, not of God, but of creation,” he said to Kristen and me. “I sat there and was just weeping. Because I needed to hear it. It was an acceptance of who I was becoming or who I had been all along, turns out.”
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
“After trying to run away from God, it turns out that I didn’t need God. I needed the sound of God,” he said. “That concept to me is sound.”
He thought to himself, “This is the right place.”
“This has got to be the right place. There is no way that I could not be here,” he said. “But there was a reason for that moment. I can’t plan that out. I’m not going to say that it was God or any kind of pre-built thing, but whatever it is that connects us in life. That web -- you know, rule seven -- that web that interconnects us all, somebody plucked it and it… life… pulled me in to the right place at the right time to save me from myself.”
And the earth is my blue boat home.
“And we stayed. In February we joined the church. We signed the card and went to class,” he said. “I found my own little blue boat. I didn’t feel so alone.”Find more stories of #LivingUU here.
The authors of #Living UU are Beth Neavel-Cortez and Kristen Psaki. Beth is a free-lance journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is a life long Unitarian Universalist who knows that story-telling is what saves us. Kristen is a member of First Unitarian Society of Denver. She is pursuing ministerial ordination with Unitarian Universalist Association. Kristen loves chocolate and coffee, together or separately.